55 Surprising Facts About America's Beaches

Venice Beach in Los Angeles


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Venice Beach in Los Angeles

Surprising U.S. Beach Facts

Think you know all there is to know about America's beaches? Think again. From UFOs and green sand to nude sunbathers and wild horses, the beaches of the United States contain a diversity of attractions almost as varied as its 332 million inhabitants. Here are some of the most unique beach experiences in the country, as well as some lesser-known trivia that will make you look smart at your next happy hour, virtual or otherwise.

Secluded Beach Paradises Perfect for Social Distancing — If Only You Could Get There

Seward Highway, Alaska
Laura Lohrman Moore/shutterstock

America's Longest Beach Shoreline Is in Alaska

While many people think of California or Florida when thinking of beaches in America, the country's longest coastline is much farther north. Not only is Alaska by far America's largest state (more than twice as large as second-place Texas), it boasts the nation's longest coastline at 33,904 miles. Florida is way behind in second place at 8,436 miles. 

Related: Most Remote States in the U.S.

New Smyrna Beach

This Florida Beach Has The Most Shark Attacks In The World

While shark attacks are exceedingly rare, they happen more in the United States than any other country. And the beach that lays claim to the dubious honor of hosting the most shark attacks in the world is New Smyrna Beach near Daytona, Florida, known as "the world's shark bite capital." In Volusia County, where the beach is located, there have been at least 320 confirmed shark bites since 1882. 

Related: Shark Attacks, "Dry Drowning," and Other Summer Horror Stories

Revere beach 1910
Revere beach 1910 by Hugh Manatee (None)

America's First Public Beach Dates Back to 1896 Massachusetts

It is perhaps unsurprising that America's first public beach is just 5 miles from downtown Boston in a town named after Paul Revere. But it's true. Revere Beach, in the town of Revere, lays claim to the honor of "America's First Beach." The 3-mile beach was founded in 1896, one year after a rail link to the beach was established along the Boston, Revere Beach, & Lynn Railroad. 

Related: Things You Never Knew About New England

Papakolea Beach, Hawaii

There's a Green Sand Beach In Hawaii, One of Only Four in the World

On the southern tip of the Big Island of Hawaii, Papakolea Beach is one of only four green sand beaches in the world. The sand gets its unique coloring from crystals created by the mineral olivine, which can be found in the surrounding volcanic rock — with the beach itself carved into a 49,000-year-old volcano. 

Related: The Best of Hawaii on a Budget

Haulover Beach

There Are Dozens of Nude Beaches In More Than 22 States

While nude sunbathing is still not as commonplace or socially acceptable in America as compared with Europe, there are still dozens of beaches in the States where it is legal to strut your stuff in the buff. Haulover Beach near Miami is one of the country's most popular nude beaches, while Black's Beach near San Diego is one of the most beautiful. Just remember to wear sunblock.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore; Porter, Indiana

This Indiana Beach Is One Of America's Newest National Parks

In 2019, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore became America's 61st national park when it was renamed Indiana Dunes National Park. Hugging 15 miles of the southern shore of Lake Michigan less than 50 miles from downtown Chicago, the national park boasts more than 50 miles of trails across 15,000 acres. You can even explore the dunes on horseback.

Stunning Photos of Every National Park in America

Collins beach UFO
Gina L./Yelp

There's a UFO on this Oregon Nude Beach

No, it's not an actual UFO. But the 31-foot oddity known as the "UFO Boat" on the quirky nude beach of Collins Beach near Portland is certainly one of America's more unique beach attractions. Covered in graffiti, the washed-ashore "UFO" is a popular photo-op spot on Sauvie Island, along the Columbia River. 

Related: Amazing Places to Take a Selfie in All 50 States

Salton Sea, California

This California Beach Is on the Edge of a Toxic Lake

Once a thriving vacation community in the Southern California desert about 60 miles from Palm Springs, Bombay Beach is now a rotting corpse of its former self. The beach is on the shores of the eerily beautiful Salton Sea, whose high level of salinity has killed off much of its fish and bird life over the years since the lake was created by an irrigation accident in 1905.

Once Popular Tourist Hotspots That Are Now Totally Abandoned

Channel Islands National Park

You Need to Sign a Waiver to Visit the Beaches of This Remote California Island

Just 12 miles off the coast of Southern California at its closest point, Channel Islands National Park is one of America's most underrated destinations. Its farthest and most remote island, San Miguel Island, features stunning beaches but — with the island once used as a former bombing range by the U.S. Navy — you need to sign a waiver before visiting due to the possibility of encountering unexploded land mines. (Want to catch a glimpse of the Channel Islands from the comfort and safety of home? Be sure to check out National Park Webcams Where You Can See the Wilderness from Home.)

Bowman's Beach, Sanibel, Florida

Florida's Sanibel Island Boasts Some of the Finest Shelling in the World

While the beaches along Florida's eastern shore get most of the attention (and tourists), Florida's lesser-visited Gulf Coast contains a wealth of natural gems such as Sanibel Island near Fort Myers. The beaches are known for some of the finest shelling in the world, with the "Sanibel Stoop" a popular phrase depicting the hunched-over posture of beachgoers combing the sand for shells.

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Georgia: Cumberland Island National Seashore

Wild Horses Roam the Shores of This Maryland Beach

We don't know if Mick Jagger was singing about this Maryland beach, but wild horses couldn't drag most visitors away from Assateague Island National Seashore south of Ocean City. The area is most well known for the presence of wild feral horses that freely roam its beach. Wild horses can also be spotted on the beaches of Cumberland Island National Lakeshore in Georgia.

The Best State Park in Every State

Gulf Shores, AL
Darryl Vest/shutterstock

There's an Annual Music Festival on This Beach

The beautiful beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama, across the state line from Florida's more heavily visited Pensacola, are some of the most underrated in America. Yet their profile has been raised in recent years thanks to the presence of the annual Hangout Music Festival, which welcomes a variety of rock acts across several beachfront stages.


'Surf City' Is in California, Not Hawaii

While surfing in America originated in Hawaii, the title of "Surf City USA" is claimed by Huntington Beach, California. One of America's most popular beaches known for its terrific year-round surf conditions, Huntington Beach is home to the International Surfing Museum and hosts the annual U.S. Open for Surfing every summer.

Lake Tahoe

You Can Legally Drink on This Nevada State Park Beach

While drinking is legal on a number of beaches in America, few are more beautiful than Sand Harbor perched on the shores of picturesque Lake Tahoe. Also known as Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, this gorgeous stretch of paradise is known for its crystal clear waters shimmering against a glorious backdrop of alpine trees and mountains. Crucially, you can also buy booze from a concessionaire just off the beach.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

There's a Waterfall Flowing Into the Ocean at This Spectacular California Beach

As if the wild coastal landscape along California's Highway 1 near Big Sur wasn't beautiful enough, you can also find a state park that boasts the extremely rare sight of a waterfall flowing directly into the ocean. At Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, the 80-foot McWay Falls flowing into the Pacific Ocean makes for one of the most stunning natural vistas in America.

Where to Find Waterfalls in All 50 States 

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
StacieStauffSmith Photos/shutterstock

Myrtle Beach Is America's Most-Visited Beach

Welcoming more than 19 million visitors a year, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is the most-visited beach destination in America. Los Angeles' Venice Beach comes in second place at 16 million visitors a year, with Miami's world-famous South Beach in third place at 15 million visitors a year. The Myrtle Beach area, known as the Grand Strand, encompasses 14 communities and 60 miles of beach along the South Carolina coast.

The Best Beaches on the East Coast 

Indian Beach in Ecola State Park, Oregon
Marisa Estivill/shutterstock

The Strange Sea Stacks on This Oregon Beach Were Seen in Several Movies

Along the rugged northern Oregon coast, Ecola State Park is easily one of the most beautiful state parks in America. Known for its unique sea stacks that punctuate the cinematic landscape, the area has been chosen as a filming location for several movies, including "The Goonies," "Point Break," and "Twilight."

50 Iconic Movie Locations You Have to See 

muscle beach, CA
Joel Carillet/istockphoto

You Can Get a Serious Workout on This California Beach

One of America's most iconic beaches, Venice Beach in Los Angeles is known for its wonderfully offbeat collection of human beings who frequent its always-eclectic boardwalk. But what might be even more recognizable is its world-famous Muscle Beach, where Arnold Schwarzenegger was once a regular. In recent decades, the outdoor fitness facility has helped popularize weightlifting in America.

Iconic Movie and TV Beaches You Need to Visit

Big Talbot Island State Park
RAUL RODRIGUEZ/istockphoto

Tree-Sized Fossils Have Been Found on This Florida Beach

Within Big Talbot Island State Park near Jacksonville, Florida, Boneyard Beach is known for its vast accumulation of bleached oak tree skeletons that can be found all over its sand. The beach is also home to a number of tree-sized fossils recently discovered by park archaeologists.

glass beach
Jorge Villalba/istockphoto

There's a Stunning Glass Beach in California

One of the most stunningly unique beaches in all of America owes much of its fame to trash. In Northern California's Mendocino County near Fort Bragg, MacKerricher State Park was once the site of a garbage dump. Today it is home to the iconic Glass Beach, where colorful glass fragments from broken bottles dot its one-of-a-kind landscape. 

Red sand beach

There's a Red Sand Nude Beach in Hawaii

On the Hawaiian island of Maui near Haleakala National Park, Kaihalulu Beach is often known by another name: Red Sand Beach. As one of few red sand beaches in the world, the sand gets its color from the rich iron deposits in the surrounding hills. The beach is remote and laid-back, with many considering it clothing optional.


Door County, Wisconsin
max voran/shutterstock

It's Illegal to Take Rocks From This Spectacular Wisconsin Island Beach

North of Green Bay on the remote Washington Island in Door County, Wisconsin, you'll find a beautiful beach. But you won't find sand. Instead, you'll find the shores of Schoolhouse Beach populated by smooth limestone rocks, one of only five beaches like it in the world. As much as you may be tempted, don't try to take a souvenir rock with you: it's illegal.

Jones Beach Amphitheater

This Beach Has a Huge Music Venue On It

On some beaches, you can find a guy with an acoustic guitar. At Jones Beach on New York's Long Island, you can find the full-service Jones Beach Amphitheater. Recently renamed Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater, the Live Nation-operated venue welcomes major touring acts each summer in a spectacular setting overlooking the water from the popular Jones Beach. Several shows are already scheduled for this year.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Empire, Michigan

Michigan Boasts America's Longest Freshwater Coastline

When it comes to beaches in America, Michigan is often overlooked. But it shouldn't be. With 3,228 miles of coastline, the Wolverine State boasts the longest freshwater coastline in the country thanks to its shared border with four of the five Great Lakes. The state is also home to some of the most stunning beaches in the country, including Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

singing beach

The Sand at This Massachusetts Beach 'Sings'

About 30 miles north of Boston in the town Manchester-by-the-Sea, Singing Beach is one of America's more curious beach attractions. While the beach doesn't exactly sing as the name suggests, the sand does often emit a notable squeaking sound when stepped on dry during the right conditions. The sound is believed to be caused by friction between grains of sand.

shelter cove, CA black sand beach

The Finest Black Sand Beach on the Mainland Hides in California's Lost Coast

While black sand beaches are not a terribly uncommon sight in Hawaii and Alaska, they are rare on the U.S. mainland. Black Sands Beach in Shelter Cove, California, is a dramatically gorgeous beach hidden within the state's often overlooked Lost Coast, which is not accessible via any major roads.


bowling ball beach

This Beach Looks Like It Was Invaded by Bowling Balls

Near the northern terminus of the iconic Highway 1, beach seekers will find a most unusual sight at Bowling Ball Beach in Point Arena, California. at the northern edge of Schooner Gulch State Beach, the beach is named for the giant bowling ball-shaped rocks that can be seen off its coastline at low tide.

Caspersen Beach in Venice, Florida.

You Can Find Plenty of Shark Teeth on This Florida Beach

In a town known as "The Shark Tooth Capital of the World," it makes sense that you can find shark teeth on its beaches. And one of the most popular spots to dig up the remains of fossilized shark teeth is Caspersen Beach in Venice, Florida. The town's location makes it an ideal end point for prehistoric shark teeth washing onto shore.

 Strangest Things That Have Washed Ashore

Fort Jefferson

There's a 19th Century Fort on This Florida National Park Beach

About 70 miles east of Key West, beach seekers will find one of the most spectacular of all American parks: Dry Tortugas National Park. The park is home to seven islands including the iconic Fort Jefferson, one of the largest forts in America, which is made up of more than 16 million bricks. Much of the fort is surrounded by pristine beach and stunning crystal clear Caribbean-style waters.

Bucket-List Experiences in America's National Parks

Pirate Tower of Victoria Beach

There's a Medieval Tower on This California Beach

Laguna Beach, California, is renowned for hosting some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Yet its most unique beachfront attraction is the Pirate Tower of Victoria Beach, a mind-blowing sight carved into the bluffs. Also known as "La Tour" (French for tower), the 60-foot castle-styled structure was built in 1926 and today is a quintessential Southern California Instagram backdrop.

cape alava

You Can Check Out Ancient Rock Petroglyphs at This Washington Beach

Within the stunning Olympic National Park near the westernmost point of the continental U.S., Cape Alava is a remote wilderness of rugged beaches, unspoiled forests, and rocks that contain an unusual beach sight: ancient petroglyphs. Dating back to roughly 10,000 to 14,000 BC, the petroglyphs can be found in coastal areas of the cape such as Wedding Rocks.

Incredible Photos of Ancient Ruins Across North America

Enderts beach

This Beach Is Surrounded by Massive 350-Foot Redwoods

Northern California's Redwood National Park is of course known for its namesake trees, the tallest and some of the oldest on Earth. But just a mile from its shady redwood forests, visitors will discover the hidden gem of Enderts Beach. Stop by for sunset, play around in its tidepools, or just marvel at the magnificent views all around.

Folly Beach, South Carolina

You Can Explore the 'Edge of America' at This South Carolina Beach

Charleston, South Carolina, is adored for its chef-driven food scene and some of the best-preserved historic colonial architecture in America. But the city is also home to a number of gorgeous beaches such as Folly Beach, affectionately known as "The Edge of America." The beach is home to an iconic pier, which is currently being rebuilt.

The Best Cities in America for People Who Love Food 

Purple Beach Pfeiffer Beach in California

A Purple Sand Beach Is Hidden Near Big Sur, California

Not to be confused with nearby Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Pfeiffer Beach in Los Padres National Forest near Big Sur hides a most unusual sight for beachcombers: purple sand. At the end of an unmarked road, this easy-to-miss spot gets its purplish hue from manganese minerals in the surrounding cliffs. The purple coloring is not always visible and best viewed at sunset just after it rains.

Northwest Oregon's Coastline. Siuslaw National Forest

There's an Enormous Natural Sinkhole on This Oregon Beach

In the Siuslaw National Forest along the central Oregon coast, Cape Perpetua Scenic Area is a jaw-dropping forested wonderland famous for an enormous natural sinkhole called Thor's Well. Best viewed during high tide, the mysterious hole seems to swallow up large volumes of seawater that crashes upon its shore.

Weird Tourist Attractions Across America 

Flora-Bama | Pensacola, Florida

There's a Bar That Straddles Two States on This Florida/Alabama Beach

On the border of Orange Beach, Alabama, and Perdido Key, Florida, the Flora-Bama Lounge is a legendary beach bar honky-tonk with five stages of live music and a notorious frozen cocktail known as the Bushwacker. The raucous bar hosts numerous events throughout the year, including the famous Mullet Toss fish-throwing contest.

Historic Dive Bars Across the Country 

Kindred Spirit Mailbox

You Can Drop Letters in a Mailbox on This North Carolina Beach

A beach isn't the first place you'd expect to find a mailbox. But at Sunset Beach on North Carolina's Bird Island, you will find just that. Known as the Kindred Spirit Mailbox, the mailbox has been collecting letters from locals and visitors for decades. According to legend, handwritten letters from locals even helped stop a planned development on the pristine island.

Related: Historic and Unusual Post Offices Across America

Boon Island

Cannibalism Was Reportedly Practiced on This Maine Island

New England's tallest lighthouse is 6 miles off the coast of Maine, but that's not the most interesting fact about Boon Island. Like something out of a horror novel from Maine native Stephen King, a British ship wrecked on the island in 1710 where it stranded a crew of 14. After four of the crew died, the remaining 10 reportedly ate their remains to stay alive until they were rescued.

Spectacular Lighthouses to See Across America 

Point Dume State Beach, Malibu, California

'Planet of the Apes' Was Filmed on This Iconic Malibu Beach

Malibu's Point Dume State Beach is easily one of the most beautiful beaches in America … and one of its most cinematic. Not only does the gorgeous rock bluff at the end of the beach make a great spot for whale watching; it was the filming location for the 1968 classic "Planet of the Apes" and its famous scale replica of the Statue of Liberty buried in the sand.

Niihau by Polihale (CC BY-SA)

The Beaches on This Remote Hawaiian Island Have Been Forbidden to Outsiders

Most beaches in Hawaii are extremely welcoming to outsiders. The beaches of Niihau are a different story. Known as "The Forbidden Isle," the state's westernmost island is a remote, privately owned enclave that has been closed to tourism for much of its history to protect the history and customs of its native peoples. In recent years, however, tourism has been allowed in limited numbers.

Fascinating Places Where Tourists Aren't Welcome 

Montrose Beach

There Are Birding Trails and Sand Dunes at a Chicago Beach Near Downtown

Chicago may be known for deep-dish pizza and Michael Jordan, but America's third-largest city also quietly hides some of the most unique beaches in America. With many of its Lake Michigan beaches just steps from the city's urban core, it looks as if some of the downtown high-rises come close to even touching the sand. On the city's North Side, Montrose Beach includes birding trails and sand dunes. 

Related: Best Dog Parks Across America

Marcos Island

Fire Dancers Perform Nightly on This Florida Beach

If you thought native fire dancing was a thing of the past, you clearly haven't been to Marco Island. The popular Florida family vacation destination is world-renowned for its white sand beaches and gorgeous sunsets off the Gulf Coast, but the sand outside the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort is also where you can find nightly fire shows performed on the beach by hotel entertainers.

Route 66 | Santa Monica Pier

Several American Beaches Boast Full-Scale Amusement Parks

While many beachgoers look for quiet and serenity when seeking out the ideal beachside destination, others look for the exact opposite. And several U.S. beaches offer full-scale amusement parks for those in search of some adrenaline-pumping action. From the Jersey Shore to California's Santa Monica Pier, American beachgoers are rarely lacking in old-school amusements.

Iconic and Beautiful Boardwalks in the Country 

drive car onto daytona beach

You Can Drive a Car on Many Beaches

In a country as in love with the automobile as America, it is perhaps unsurprising that you can drive a car on many of its beaches. Hard-partying Daytona Beach is likely its most famous example, but auto access is also allowed on a number of additional beaches from South Padre Island, Texas, to the Outer Banks, North Carolina. Just be sure to gas up first. 

Related: Epic Off-Road Adventures Across the U.S. and Canada

Hampton Beach NH

New Hampshire Contains America's Shortest Coastline

New Hampshire may not be the first state that comes to mind when you think of beaches, but the Granite State does contain a number of lovely beaches along its short 18-mile seacoast. Hampton Beach State Park is the most popular, with a number of additional state park beaches dotted along the coast from approximately Hampton to Portsmouth.

 South Beach Wine & Food Festival

There's a Giant Food Festival Every Year on This Glitzy Miami Beach

No doubt most beach seekers have heard of (and likely visited) Miami's world-famous South Beach. In addition to the beautiful people and raging dance clubs, South Beach is also home to the annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival, one of America's largest and most important culinary events. The event takes place at several locations across Miami Beach, including on the beach itself.

Long Island, NY: Hamptons
Miles Astray/istockphoto

New York Is the Only State With Both Ocean and Great Lakes Beaches

There are 30 states with coastline, with 23 bordering the ocean and eight bordering the Great Lakes. With the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Lake Ontario on the other, New York is the only state with beaches that line both. While the state is home to a number of famous ocean beaches in places such as The Hamptons and Fire Island, the lake side of the state boasts summer staples such as Ontario Beach.

Celeb-Worthy Malibu Mansion, Malibu, California

Malibu Is Home to America's Most Expensive Beachfront Real Estate

Buying a home on the beach is never cheap, but buying a home in Malibu is on a whole other level. For a median home price of $4 million, you too can live with the rich and famous in this gorgeous coastal enclave north of Los Angeles. Top beaches in the city include El Matador, Zuma, and Point Dume.

Most Expensive Beachfront Properties 

Tumon Bay, Guam

The Farthest Beach From the Mainland Is Nearly 8,000 Miles From Washington D.C.

Some 7,935 miles west of Washington, D.C., Guam is the farthest territory from the mainland under U.S. jurisdiction. On the western side of the island, Salinas Beach in the town of Agat appears to be Guam's farthest beach from the mainland. By comparison, Beijing, China, is roughly 1,000 miles closer to the U.S. capital.

 Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

There's a Strange Gray Sand Beach Along the Gulf of Alaska

In the Ocean Cape Area of Alaska near the town of Yakutat, beachgoers will find a strange metallic-hued beach that also makes an excellent surfing area. The beach is near Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve, with gray-colored beaches not an uncommon sight along the Gulf of Alaska. The color is believed to be caused by the friction between the area's strong waves and extremely rocky waters.

Historic National Park Photos for Vintage Views

Adak Island in Alaska

America's Last Beach Sunset Takes Place on Alaska's Adak Island

The extremely remote Aleutian Islands off of Alaska's west coast are where you can find the last sunset in America, as everything west of the sparsely populated island chain lies west of the International Date Line. The stunningly beautiful and wild Kuluk Beach on Adak Island appears to be the westernmost beach in the island chain, meaning you can probably have America's last sunset all to yourself.

Around the World in Stunning Sunsets

Sandbridge Beach, Virginia Beach, Virginia
Jay Yuan/shutterstock

Virginia Beach Claims the Longest Beach in the U.S.

While the 70-mile Padre Island National Seashore is technically longer, the 35-mile Virginia Beach is the longest uninterrupted single beach in the U.S. (and seventh-longest in the world.) It is also listed as the world's "longest pleasure beach" by the Guinness Book of World Records. This despite the fact that the 28-mile Long Beach Peninsula in Washington state claims to be the longest beach in the U.S. — or at least the longest driveable one.

Just Enough Room Island
Just Enough Room Island by Omegatron (None)

The Smallest Beach in the U.S. Is Outside This Private Home

Tucked along the St. Lawrence River in New York's Thousand Island Chain near the Canadian border, Hub Island is believed to be the smallest island in the U.S. at around 3,300 square feet. Also known as Just Enough Room Island, the island consists of a private home that takes up most of the island as well as a small beach outside the front door.

Private Islands You Might Actually Be Able to Afford 

beach clean up
Julio Ricco/istockphoto

California Towns Spend Nearly $500 Million a Year to Keep Beaches Clean

Local California communities spend roughly $428 million a year to keep trash and plastic out of waterways that could pollute the ocean and its beaches. A reported 95 communities around the state, ranging in size from 700 residents to 4 million, spend around $10.71 per resident on litter management and debris reduction.

family on beach

Americans Make an Estimated 2 Billion Visits to the Beach Every Year

Beaches are a large driver of the U.S. economy, with research in 2008 that around 180 million Americans making an estimated 2 billion trips to the beach each year. It is estimated that coastal states bring in around 85% of U.S. tourism revenue, contributing more than $320 billion to the annual economy. By comparison, this is more than 25 times the revenue brought in by U.S. national parks with twice the visitation to U.S. beaches versus national parks.